Baby Acne or Rash? 5 Types and How to Treat Them

Medically reviewed by Karen Gill, MD on December 14, 2017Written by Rena Goldman

Even adults can find it difficult to identify their skin issues. Everyone’s skin is different, and the way rashes and acne flare up can vary. Babies can’t tell you what they’re feeling, so you’ll have to go on looks alone.

Read on to learn about some of the most common skin issues that babies face, and how you can treat them at home.

Pictures of baby acne

Baby acne

Baby acne usually develops about two to four weeks after birth. Tiny red or white bumps appear on the baby’s cheeks, nose, and forehead. The cause is unknown. It typically clears up on its own in about three to four months without leaving marks.

To treat baby acne, don’t use any of the over-the-counter acne products you’d use on yourself. These can damage your baby’s delicate skin.

Regular home care should be enough to treat baby acne:

  • Wash your baby’s face daily with a gentle soap.
  • Don’t scrub hard or pinch the irritated areas.
  • Avoid lotions or oily face products.

If you’re concerned that your baby’s acne isn’t going away, their doctor can recommend or prescribe safe treatments.

Eczema

Eczema is a skin condition that causes a dry, red, itchy, and sometimes painful rash. It’s more common in children and often develops in the first 6 months of life. The condition can continue as the child gets older, or they may grow out of it.

In babies up to 6 months old, eczema often appears on the cheeks or forehead. As the baby gets older, the rash may move to the elbows, knees, and skin creases.

Eczema flares up when the skin is dry or when the skin comes into contact with an allergen or irritant, such as:

  • pet dander
  • dust mites
  • detergent
  • household cleaner

Drooling can also irritate eczema around the chin or mouth.

There’s no cure for eczema, but there are ways to manage your baby’s symptoms:

  • Give short, lukewarm baths (between 5 and 10 minutes) and use gentle soap.
  • Use a thick cream or ointment as a moisturizer twice a day.
  • Use fragrance-free laundry detergent designed for sensitive skin.

Your baby’s pediatrician may be able to prescribe a steroid ointment to help reduce inflammation. Use this as directed by their doctor.

Milia

Milia are tiny white bumps on a newborn’s nose, chin, or cheeks that look similar to acne. They can also appear on the baby’s arms and legs. The bumps are caused by dead skin flakes becoming trapped near the skin’s surface. Like baby acne, milia go away without treatment.

However, you can use the same at-home care:

  • Wash your baby’s face daily with a gentle soap.
  • Don’t scrub hard or pinch the irritated areas.
  • Avoid lotions or oily face products.

Cradle cap

Cradle cap looks like scaly, yellowish, crusty patches on the baby’s head. This usually develops when a baby is 2 or 3 months old. There may also be redness surrounding the patches. This rash can appear on the baby’s neck, ears, or armpits as well.

While it doesn’t look pretty, cradle cap isn’t harmful to your baby. It’s not itchy like eczema. It’ll go away on its own in a few weeks or months without treatment.

Some things you can do at home to control cradle cap are:

  • Wash your baby’s hair and scalp with a gentle shampoo.
  • Brush scales out with a soft-bristled hairbrush.
  • Avoid washing hair too often, as it’ll dry out the scalp.
  • Use baby oil to soften the scales so they’re easier to brush out.

Heat rash

Heat rash is caused when sweat gets trapped under the skin because of blocked pores. It’s usually caused by exposure to hot or humid weather. When a baby gets heat rash, they develop tiny, red, fluid-filled blisters. These can appear on the:

  • neck
  • shoulders
  • chest
  • armpits
  • elbow creases
  • groin

The rash generally goes away within a few days without treatment. However, see your baby’s doctor if they get a fever or the rash:

  • doesn’t go away
  • looks worse
  • gets infected

To avoid overheating, dress your baby in loose-fitting cotton clothing during hot summer months. Take off extra layers if they get too hot in cooler weather.

Mongolian spots

Mongolian spots are a type of birthmark that appear shortly after birth. The spots can range in size and have a bluish gray color that ranges in darkness. They can be found anywhere on a baby’s body, but are usually seen on the buttocks, lower back, or back of the shoulder.

The spots are also most common in babies with African, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, or Asian descent. They’re harmless and fade over time without treatment.

Outlook

These skin conditions are generally harmless and usually go away on their own with little or no treatment. You can help your baby avoid irritating the area by keeping their nails short and putting soft cotton gloves on them at night.

If you’re concerned or feel that your child is dealing with something more serious, talk to their pediatrician. 

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